Push to The Latest: No


If you had a baby and money was no object, would you take your child to the cheapest possible day care center, even if it provided questionable care and potentially bad influences? Same situation, different baby-your resort. Do you hire people who don't understand or even really care how your operation works? Does your staff understand why you do things a certain way, or care if the resort functions properly at all? Our industry appears to value stuff over staff, demonstrated by our tendency to buy high-tech equipment and then hire cheap labor to operate it. When we couldn't find folks to man the front lines for $8 an hour, we went overseas to recruit international staff rather than raise the pay rate. We would probably hire illegal aliens if we could get away with it. What we end up with is a staff whose incompetence requires constant work-arounds. One answer is more automation-but would we really need so much technology if we had more capable staff? And even if the automated operations have great merit, their benefits can be diminished, and the equipment's life expectancy shortened, when operated by unqualified employees.

Subordinates with dependable decision-making ability and problem-solving skills are becoming increasingly rare. Wouldn't it be nice to hand over completion of a task at shift change and be confident of the outcome? Yet, when we do find a good staff member willing to go the extra mile, what do we do? We ask them to go three extra miles (for an extra 50 cents an hour, and perhaps benefits). There is an alternative: hire the right staff and pay them appropriately. A well-trained and properly-paid staff not only takes better care of your equipment, it can also improve productivity-both of which translate to the bottom line. Some resorts have sought the best of both worlds by bringing in contract labor for snowmaking and grooming operations.

"Loss of production while training inexperienced staff, and additional income from a consistent opening with a good early season product, can easily overshadow the cost of hiring a professional team," says Nick Horgan, owner of Seasonal Labor Solutions.

The current economy provides a great opportunity to attract qualified employees who might have been overlooked in the past-people who may be overqualified for the job but who will bring skills and a new set of eyes that may help improve your operation. This would require a commitment to retain these personnel when the economy turns around by offering increased pay and benefits to those who prove worthy.

Let's make our industry a place to build a career again, instead of sucking the life out of people and driving them away. There has always been a tradeoff of less pay for increased pleasure benefits in our industry, but if employees are so overburdened in their jobs that they can't enjoy the benefits of living and working in the mountains, the monetary sacrifice isn't worth it. Sure, make your employees earn their wage, but give them something to earn and time to enjoy it all.

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